Olympian and Paralympian Salute Day
Calgary athletes were honoured at city hall on Monday, with the mayor proclaiming Oct. 3, 2016 as Olympian and Paralympian Salute Day.
Athletes, coaches and trainers who represented Canada at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio received a standing ovation in council chambers at the start of Monday morning's meeting.
"What a summer. Our Olympians and Paralympians gave Calgarians so many reasons to be so incredibly proud this year and always," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
"Your performances in Rio made us all proud to be Canadians."
Canadian athletes won 22 medals at the Olympics and another 29 at the Paralympics, and Nenshi said Calgary-based athletes won four Olympic and three Paralympic medals in Rio.
"We are of course in this city extremely proud of our own Olympic legacy. We're even more proud of the role that our city plays in Canada's Olympic movement as a centre of sport in this country," he said.
Nenshi is a self-proclaimed "big sporting fan" who spent time in Rio this summer cheering on athletes and talking about a potential Calgary Winter Games in 2026.
He spoke to council Monday about one of his fondest Rio moments — standing by himself, in an empty section, waving a small Canadian flag and watching Erica Wiebe win gold in wrestling.
"I spent the entire day watching the women's wrestling. I now have a new favourite summer sport," he said.
Honoured Member Graham Kelly inducted to Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame
Considering he's already in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Alberta Sports Hall of Fame, it certainly seemed logical that Graham Kelly would have a spot of honour in the place he's called home for 48 years.
The longtime columnist here at the News and former city alderman got his due, added to the Medicine Hat Sports Wall of Fame Wednesday night at the Family Leisure Centre.
"It's about time," remarked emcee and current council member Les Pearson, summing up the feelings of the few dozen attendees.
Kelly's work as a CFL historian through the seven books he's written on the league were instrumental in his nomination for that shrine. His 44 years writing a weekly column at the News was key for the provincial honour. But as the 73-year-old stood at the podium in a building he had a hand in creating, accepting not one but two standing ovations, it was made clear his work in the Gas City's sports scene goes far beyond being a writer.
"This is the biggest," said Lee Little, who nominated Kelly. "As a community volunteer and working with the football association, it's a football person talking to a football person. Graham allows us to bridge the football to politics talk, and when we talk to him, he gets it."
As kids played football at the adjacent Methanex Bowl, others skated or swam or worked out elsewhere in the leisure centre. All owe some gratitude to Kelly, who in 30 years on city council had a hand in all of it and more.
"You cannot drive anywhere in this city and not see a project he was not involved in," noted Mayor Ted Clugston, adding that the city is better for having him.
Kelly, born mere blocks from where the Saskatchewan Roughriders play, moved to Medicine Hat with wife Lorena in 1968. The one-time waterboy for the Riders transitioned into writing and initially was denied a chance to be a columnist. But he persisted, and thanked his wife and family in attendance for supporting his passion over the years.
"Lorena did so much to facilitate my career," he said. "When I was in the press box she was in the stands with my sons (David and Rob)."
One time Lorena was even in the press box herself, called into duty when Graham was in Hamilton at a university conference in 1965 while the Tiger-Cats headed to Regina for a regular season game.
At the time he was writing for United Press International. He asked her to fill in.
"Lorena was the first woman in a press box in the CFL," Graham said to a round of applause Wednesday.
"Now most of the reporters are women."
Times do change, but Kelly's spot as a columnist has remained. He's been to 42 Grey Cup games, seen the city's population nearly triple, and was acutely aware of the special place this honour holds in his heart.
"To be inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (in June) was certainly special and a highlight of my life, but most of the people in Red Deer that night never heard of me, don't know me," said Kelly. "It was very special to be honoured by people in Medicine Hat who think I'm worthy of being honoured, many of whom I've worked with over the years. It's a special thing."
Among the attendees was fellow Sports Wall of Fame member Lovell McDonnell and many who Kelly recognized as former students of his. Quinn Skelton, now coach of Hat High's Mohawks football program, said Graham was "the same type of teacher as you'd expect him to be now. Straightforward historian, a great guy to listen to in class.
"He was involved back in the early days of Rangeland football, he's always been a positive supporter with our minor football both on and off the field. A great role model and a positive public figure to look up to here in Medicine Hat."
Honoured Members John Short & the Smith family on Olympic Success
Article from Edmonton Sun: Dinner with family of swimming greats showed importance of personal best performances
The only thing — well, the biggest thing — missing from Canada's remarkable run of medal and near-medal Olympic performances at Rio is some legitimate recognition that, finally, we are maturing as a sports nation.
For the first time in this old media wretch's long memory, we have begun to accept that the only way to build long-term success in any endeavour is to seek and achieve consistency.
Which means, to me, that an individual's personal best — which this nation has a long history of overlooking or pooh-poohing — may be as important, long-term, as any individual visit to a post-event celebration on the podium.
For years, it was common for media and fans to denigrate athletes who wore national colours, including the flag, but failed to get past the early stages of competition. To miss in the heats or fail in a quarter- or semifinal was to be labelled a serious failure. We aren't doing that any more.
True sports fans owe a debt of thanks to the enlightened builders and observers who have led the way in the great steps towards serious recognition of progress at a high level.
Several times in the last 10 days, a long-ago meal at the home of the late Don and Gwen Smith and their eight kids has been brought to happy memory. In case you didn't know, Edmonton's downtown pool is named in Don's honour and Gwen, once named top athlete at the University of Toronto, includes membership in Alberta's Sports Hall of Fame among her numerous accolades.
Of the Smith kids, George, Graham, Sandra, Susan and Becky all swam for Canada.
During the relaxed meal, one of the daughters mentioned winning a medal or two at a significant event. Plenty of detail was requested by proud family members, nothing more or less than the praise every winner expects.
But the lesson that stuck with me came moments later: either Graham or George mentioned achieving his personal best. He seemed apologetic that he did not win, but the other family members took the briefest of moments to quell his self-doubt.
Don, an outstanding coach during his time at the University of Alberta, explained to this curious reporter that the impossible quest of every athlete is to seek personal perfection.
Ever since that dinner, I have agreed with his assessment.
As a result, the sheer joy of Penny Oleksiak's medals and the triumphs and near-triumphs of Canadians at all levels of every event is made even greater because a large number of Canadian athletes may be on the cusp of wonderful things to come.
All these personal bests tell that wonderful story.
Honoured Member Ashley Steacy wins Bronze Medal!
Article from Lethbridge Herald: Steacy wins bronze at Rio Olympics
Ashley Steacy is an Olympic bronze medallist.
Steacy, the LCI grad and former University of Lethbridge Pronghorns rugby star, was part of Canada's rugby sevens team which defeated Great Britain 33-10 on Monday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro.
With many family members and friends in the crowd, Steacy wept as the final buzzer sounded on the bronze-medal match. The commitment to Rugby Canada pulled Steacy away from her life in Lethbridge, but it all came to a thrilling, emotional finish for the Canadian women and their incipient Olympic sport.
Steacy competed with another former Pronghorn in Kayla Moleschi, who arrived after Steacy left the program. She's become a star in sevens rugby with her standout play internationally in the Rugby Sevens Series and become a spokesman for the sport thanks to her ability on the field, but also her shinning personality off the field.
"Patzer, I mean, she's not just an incredible player," said former Pronghorns head coach Neil Langevin, who still occasionally calls Steacy by her maiden name. "She has transformed the whole sport by being a great ambassador, a great role model for the game and the kind of athlete you want to be."
Langevin coached Steacy — as Patzer — to three Canadian University championships. He also coached Moleschi to a Canada West conference title after that. Steacy's arrival to the program saw them become a powerhouse and they attracted more star players. All the while, led by the Lethbridge product with no ego and a Ram tough presence on the field.
"I've known a lot of high-level athletes and the one thing they all have in common, to a degree, is selfishness," said Lethbridge Rugby Club president Rory McKeown. "But Ashley, for whatever reason, has none of that."
Steacy has also represented Canada in rugby 15s, and was a stalwart of the Lethbridge Rugby Club before national duty called. She spent last season recovering from a knee surgery which saw an artificial ligament made from woven kevlar installed in her knee.
McKeown said he watched the game with his parents, and took nothing for granted until Canada scored its final try and he could celebrate Steacy's win.
"It is certainly quite a feeling to say not only do I know an Olympian, but I know an Olympic medallist," he said.
Langevin said Moleschi may have been Canada's best player, by his estimation, in the tournament. A smart and tough runner, Moleschi can also tackle well and is adept at the little things. Langevin said that may be because while Patzer was out with a knee injury, Moleschi had to fill many of her roles.
"While Ashley was out, they asked Kayla to do a lot of the things they relied on Ashley to do, and it made her a much better player for it," he said. "I think it showed, during the tournament, and she was very good for Canada."
The University of Lethbridge's athletic department staff gathered in The Zoo at the U of L for the morning's 17-5 semifinal loss to eventual gold medallist Australia. Another group of fans gathered in the university's fitness centre to watch the bronze-medal game and afterward, the outpouring of congratulations on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter from friends and former teammates of Steacy's seemed endless.
Steacy is Lethbridge's first Olympic medallist since Bob Kasting, also an LCI graduate, won bronze in the men's 4×100 medley relay at Munich in 1972.
Remembering Honoured Member Frances Gordon
Another Summer Olympics is well underway. Like past Olympics, there are sure to be wonderful performances by outstanding world athletes, amazing victories, crushing defeats and a great deal of controversy.
One tremendous Alberta sports success story involves a team that competed at three different Summer Olympics, won all the games they played and yet were never awarded an Olympic gold medal.
That is the story of the Edmonton Grads women's basketball team.
The origins of this truly remarkable sports powerhouse go back to the time of the First World War. The provincial championship senior girls' basketball team from McDougall Commercial High School asked their coach, Percy Page, if he would continue to coach them after graduation.
He agreed. The Commercial Graduates Basketball Club, nicknamed 'The Grads', was born.
As a side note, Page had previously been a teacher at the Hillsdown one-room country school, east of Red Deer.
In 1922, the Edmonton Grads defeated the London Ontario Shamrocks to claim their first Canadian women's basketball championship.
The next year, the Grads won the Underwood Trophy to become the North American champions. Until they disbanded in 1940, the Grads never ceased to be both the Canadian and American championship team.
In 1924, the Grads played six games during the Paris Olympics.
They won all the games. Because women's basketball was not yet considered an Olympic sport, they did not win gold medals. However, they were designated the world women's basketball champions by the International Basketball Federation.
In 1928, the Grads played nine games in conjunction with the Amsterdam Olympics and won every single match.
Again, they were not awarded any Olympic medals, but did win the right to call themselves both the French and World champions because of the European teams they beat.
In 1932, the Grads attended the Los Angeles Olympic Games as spectators. However, no formal women's basketball games were played.
In 1936, the Grads went to the Berlin Olympics. This time there were women's basketball games again. The Grads were also allowed to both wear official Canadian team uniforms and sit in the Canadian athletes' section. They won all nine of their games. They crushed the team from London, England by a score of 100 to 2.
Because of the outbreak of the Second World War, there were no 1940 Summer Olympics. The Edmonton Grads also decided to disband in 1940.
Over the lifetime of the team (i.e. 1915 to 1940), they won 502 games (400 official contests) and lost only 20. In 1983, all 38 players with the Grads were inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame.
There was one Red Deer player with the Grads.
She was Frances Gordon (later Mills). Frances was born in Red Deer on Jan. 19th, 1915.
After excelling in academics and sports in school in Red Deer, she went to Edmonton to train as a teacher.
She was scouted by Page, and began playing for the Gradettes, the feeder team for the Grads.
She left Edmonton and the Gradettes for a couple of years while she taught in a one-room country school. After returning to Edmonton to attend McDougall Commercial School, she joined the Grads in the spring of 1937.
After a year, Gordon returned to the Gradettes. She continued to play with them until the team disbanded in 1940.
After the end of the Second World War, she returned to Red Deer where she got a job with the City Utilities office. In 1948, she married Oswin 'Ozzie' Mills, who later became the head of the City's Electric Light and Power Department.
Frances was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and the Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School Halls of Fame. She passed away in Red Deer on April 14th, 2004 at the age of 89. She and Ozzie are survived by two sons, Brian and Gerry, and their families.
Congrats from Barb Clark to 4x100m Freestyle Relay Winners!
"Congratulations Girls! We know that you put in your best effort and are proud to have another Bronze Medal in the Women's 4x100m Freestyle Relay. Way to go Gals!"
- Barb Clark Parolin
ASHFM Honoured Member Barb Clark Parolin won the Bronze at the 1976 Montreal Olympics in the 4x100M Freestyle Relay.
It's been 40 Years since Canada placed in the medals for the 4x100m Freestyle Relay.
Great job Sandrine Mainville, Chantale Van Landeham, Taylor Ruck, Penny Oleksiak, and Michelle Williams!